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Case Study: How Central West End Built an Integrated Security Application to Reduce Neighborhood Crime

September 19, 2019

Coolfire’s City Core enabled a Saint Louis neighborhood to enhance security initiatives and reduce crime. 

The Central West End (CWE) is a popular district in St. Louis, Missouri that is full of high-end shops, restaurants, and homes. As the largest center of employment in the city, its 112 tree-lined blocks also encompass universities, medical centers, and the Cortex Innovation District. The neighborhood has many multi-million dollar homes and is frequented by tourists and locals alike.

The areas that surround this buzzing St. Louis district, however, experience high crime rates and low economic growth. In response to the risks associated with encroaching crime, local business owners and citizens worked to form a community-oriented policing initiative. In 2007, the CWE Neighborhood Security Initiative (CWENSI) was established with the goal of supplementing the efforts of the St. Louis Police Department.

 

The Challenge: Disparate Security Systems Impede Effective Policing

Over the years, CWENSI rolled out bicycle patrols, surveillance cameras, and crime reporting, but officers struggled to implement large-scale solutions due to limited resources. Data was gathered manually and siloed in disparate systems, preventing security teams from assessing activity in real-time. Further, there was a lack of communication and an ongoing connection with a central command, as well as a lack of transparency between officers and citizens.

Because CWENSI is funded by local taxpayers, the business owners and residents in the area were frustrated by the limited insight they had into CWENSI’s efforts. Without a forum to easily communicate with officers, citizens had no view into the strides being taken to make the community safer. And for neighborhood security teams, the lack of community input and system integration made it challenging to develop a real-time operational picture.

Due to limited technology and communication tools, neither officers nor citizens were able to take advantage of the other’s resources. The officers of the CWE lacked the community engagement to enhance policing efforts, and the citizens lacked police visibility to truly understand efforts being made towards effective security solutions. With the right people already in place, what CWENSI needed was a unified platform to make the most of existing resources.

 

Security Application to Reduce Neighborhood Crime

 

The Solution: An Integrated Security Application for Neighborhood Security

From the start, CWENSI had a network of officers and citizens committed to protecting the community, but the initiative struggled to tap into these assets. That’s where Coolfire came in. By building on top of Coolfire’s City Core app, the district was able to design a targeted situational awareness application in record time. Through customization, the CWE’s new application provided the technological solution to improve patrolling and encourage citizen engagement.

The integrated mobile app offers two distinct interfaces: one for security officers and one for citizens. The patrol interface enables officers to view and respond to incident reports in real-time. An interactive map allows them to track the locations of other on-duty patrol teams, providing critical insight for time-sensitive situations. Push-to-talk capabilities enable simpler and more intuitive communication among security teams, central command, and local citizens. And to improve usability and convenience, officers can automatically clock in and out with geofencing.

According to Mike Crisanti, Vice President of Client Services at Coolfire Solutions, “Providing officers with more information in real-time not only helps them keep citizens safe, but keep themselves safe as well. When they’re out in the field patrolling, they’re more situationally aware of what’s going on around them because they have the data at their fingertips.”

The new CWE app also empowers residents and business owners through the citizen interface. This community-facing side of the app allows citizens to instantly report suspicious activity, request security help, and communicate with officers. With a tap of the finger, citizens can use their mobile devices to request neighborhood security services, such as a home escort or a house check. They can also receive alerts for relevant incidents in the area or view neighborhood social events on a live community updates channel.

As citizens have become more involved in public safety, both residents and security officers have benefitted from their insights. Crisanti explains, “Connecting citizens with the security force makes them feel secure and confident that there are people out there that are helping them.”

 

The Results: Proactive Policing Tools Prove a Cost-Effective Solution to Reduce Crime

Coolfire’s customized app provides a scalable model to address a variety of security challenges in the CWE. An easily-accessible common operational picture means that patrols can monitor, analyze, and respond to criminal activity in real-time. In the short-term, this has the potential to catch malicious actors — and in the long-term, it can even help prevent crime from occurring in the first place.

Crisanti says, “We’re building a detailed log of what transpires over the course of a year or two. If crimes are committed, we’ve got the ability to map where those are. When you aggregate that data over weeks and months and years, you can begin to generate heat maps and determine where your highest areas of crime are. So now, CWENSI can take security forces and re-deploy them based on what we are seeing. There’s a lot of downstream, long-term implications that are valuable based on the data is being captured.”

Since its launch, the Citizen Hub app has reduced crime rates and shortened security response times. And for every short-term benefit, there is an even better long-term benefit down the road for the CWE. By simply going about their normal patrolling duties, officers are building upon a comprehensive electronic database of persons of interest and crimes that have been committed. Their time-consuming paper-based reporting is replaced with instant in-app reporting, which contributes to a large digital log of reports for future reference. Redundant tracking has become a streamlined system, and existing cameras and sensors are being integrated with the new technology.

For Jim Whyte, the executive director of CWENSI, the new app is already making a big difference to help officers ensure a safer future. “It’s hard to believe that by installing an app on an officer’s phone, that officer now has the ability to view the location of fellow officers on a map, receive alerts from citizens in need of assistance, and log all progress in real-time for command center visibility.”

These benefits add up to a cost-effective solution that truly makes the most of citizens’ tax dollars. The technology acts as a force multiplier, allowing officers to do more with what they have — and reducing the need to hire additional personnel. Plus, as the solution is built from a Coolfire foundational app, it is extremely quick to roll out. For most security teams, it can be implemented within weeks. This means that officers can begin taking advantage of the short-term benefits almost immediately — while rapidly building up a whole host of long-term benefits for the community at large.